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It’s after 11 p.m. on a Friday night, and the basement of a Westcott-area residence is buzzing with a diverse group of people dressed to impress on the dance floor. Strobe lights flash red, green and blue as they shoot through the milky clouds of the fog machine, drowning out dancers having fun during the latest DJ set. This is just the beginning of what to expect on a night in Babylon.
“Babylon had a kind of nightclub environment, with super cool lights that create a great vibe,” said Anwuli Onwaeze, a political science student at SU. “Everything went really well, so it didn’t feel like a random basement on the dance floor.”
Babylon is currently one of the only student-run venues that provides an underground club experience for SU and SUNY-ESF students. The place was founded by six SU students: student bandits Jack Franklin, Asha Fuller, Joe (Joseph) Cohn, and Aidan Brown along with computer science specialist Chris Rhodes and communications design specialist Max Goodin. Unlike the majority of off-campus student-run venues, Babylon doesn’t have a stage to perform on, but a cage in which the DJs do their sets, Fuller said.
In early 2020, the founders of Babylon visited what is now their home and immediately knew its basement would be the perfect place to host parties. After moving the summer following the start of the pandemic, they knew their party aspirations would have to come to a halt for a while. During the pandemic shutdowns, many Babylon members practiced their DJ skills.
Last fall, the group of housemates studied abroad for the semester in London, England. They arrived just as COVID-19 restrictions around nightlife were lifted, so they got to experience London’s infamous underground scene.
“We would go to different nightclubs every weekend, seeing the craziest DJs,” Franklin said.
Franklin and Cohn said they were particularly inspired by the London sound and frequently found themselves practicing on the DJ decks in the studio at pirate studios in the city.
Their dreams of converting their Syracuse basement into a party venue slowly came to fruition during their time in London. In their business of nightlife lessons abroad, the members of Babylon learned how cages were usually built over DJ booths to protect them from anything that hostile club-goers would throw in protest at what they were playing, Franklin said.
This inspired Franklin to come up with his plans for what the basement DJ cage would look like. After returning to the house alone during winter break, Franklin said he took building the DJ booth seriously.
“Jack single-handedly built it in about three days. It was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen,” Fuller said.
Franklin and his housemates invested about $500 in building the entire facility, he said. It only took one gig – their first Babylon event – to recoup the money. They sold $5-$7 tickets at that February gig, which was the only one they charged an entrance fee.
Franklin said the band chose not to charge for shows because they were just trying to have fun, and having to keep track of money all night made it difficult for one of the founders to have fun. at the party.
For Fuller, The end was a popular house that caught his eye as a freshman and served as an inspiration to start Babylon. She said SU had a unique house party scene and wanted to contribute to it.
“From the first house show I went to, I knew the Syracuse house show scene was something I wanted to be a part of,” Fuller said.
The name of the place was inspired by the American-Canadian SHOWTIME series of the early 2000s “queer as folkwhere the main characters frequented the fictional “Babylon” gay nightclub.
“We tried to come up with names for a very long time and I kept saying Babylon, because I kept seeing ‘Queer As Folk,'” Franklin said.
Fuller said the name also ties into their intentions to make Babylon a friendly space where everyone can feel welcome, which Fuller says makes the place special.
Using their experiences overseas, the house members wanted to create something a little more niche than Syracuse had ever seen before. Unlike most other student-run venues, Babylon would book DJs, not bands, to play their sets.
Franklin said their first shows were successful, but soon after opening their home to the public, the members of Babylon realized the difficulties of running a venue in their own home.
“There were so many responsibilities. We were trying to keep people out of certain parts of the house or having to take care of people,” Franklin said. “It was eye-opening to see how much work went into it.”
On an average night, visitors can expect to find four to six different DJs playing their sets. Alpengeist, the name of SU junior DJ Destiny Wright-Butler, was someone the founders of Babylon met overseas in London. She often DJs at Babylon, playing high-energy drum and bass tracks. Franklin said he was impressed with her DJ skills and thought they were amazing.
Four of Babylon’s six residents are also DJs. Franklin’s name is JAQ, Fuller’s name is Hesh2Death, Cohn’s name is JOJO, and Brown’s name is Arthur Hustle.
“That’s what we’ve seen in England, in clubs in the UK. The DJ is like an artist, it’s like a number,” Cohn said, referring to how DJs take on another name. “Whereas in bars, the DJ is backstage just to play music.”
Cohn has been DJing since his freshman year, but Babylon was the first opportunity he had to DJ for a large audience not just friends and acquaintances.
Cohn has described his current DJ style as drum-heavy, with sets driven by UKG (UK garage) sound. He also stated that he enjoys playing disco-influenced house music and finds DJing especially exciting on occasions when he constantly sees the crowd reacting positively to whatever he plays.
Recently, COUCOU CHLOE, a London-based DJ and producer, played a set and danced among the attendees at Babylon’s third party on March 26. In 2021, COUCOU CHLOE collaborated with Lady Gaga on her “Chromatica” remix album, “Dawn of Chromatica”. », for the remix of the song « Stupid Love ».
“HELLO CHLOE DJing at Babylon was pure madness,” Fuller said. “It was probably the most epic thing that ever happened.”
Students from all walks of life on campus found their way to Babylon to meet new crowds and sweat together on the dance floor. Onwaeze first heard about Babylon from a friend who sent him Babylon’s instagram page because they knew she loved DJ sets.
“I haven’t seen anything like Babylon perform in the ‘Cuse community, so I was really excited to discover these student DJs,” Onwaeze said. “I go where there’s good music and good vibes and Babylon ticked both of those boxes.”
Onwaeze danced the night away at the latest Babylon event on April 8. She said she found the Babylon-arranged environment very entertaining and that attendees were excited to dance like no one was watching. Onwaeze said Alpengeist and JOJO were her favorite DJs of the night, and she looks forward to attending future Babylon events.
On the April 8 Babylon show, a contestant pressed his phone against the cage while Cohn played along with the message “Play Bad Bunny.” The club’s founders said they wanted to stress that Babylon is not a place where revelers should expect radio hits.
“When you come here, you’re not going to hear stuff like Bad Bunny,” Cohn said. “That’s part of what we want to do, to expose people to something they’ve never heard before.”
Fuller said every Babylon event is different from the others, from its nighttime theme to the people in its basement.
“You never know what to expect at Babylon,” Fuller said.
Published on April 13, 2022 at 11:41 p.m.